Fear serves a useful function. It keeps us safe by placing us in a high state of alert when we sense danger. But irrational or illogical fear can also limit our lives and keep us from rising to new challenges.
In those with anxiety disorder, the normal nervous system response to a threat is easily aroused and difficult to subdue. Fear can cause physical and psychological symptoms that sabotage our goals.
Fortunately there are a few simple ways to challenge yourself and lean into fear.
Recognize that fear is a universal emotion, one you are vulnerable to. In her book “The Gifts of Imperfection, researcher Dr. Brene Brown said that, “Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
The first step is to be honest and admit you are afraid. The second step is to choose to be brave. Realize that fear is mostly a learned response and it’s possible to recondition a fear response. Fear is controlled by the amygdala, a set of neurons located in the brain’s medial temporal lobe.
When the amygdala receives a danger warning, logical or not, stress hormones begin to flood the body. We learn to fear based on our experiences, but we can de-program fear by confronting the things we are most afraid of.Talk about fear to defuse it.
People who are afraid of public speaking, for example, attend Toastmasters International meetings where they share and confront their fears with like-minded individuals.Trick your mind by imagining a best case/worst case scenario. You dread asking for a raise and your mind races with awful possibilities.
One way to calm such fears is to imagine the best case/worst case scenarios. First imagine that all will go as well as it possibly could. You ask for a raise and the boss realizes you deserve twice your current salary. Great. Then imagine the worst possible scenario. He’s so insulted you asked that he fires you on the spot.
The reality will probably fall somewhere in between. And that’s generally the case. Remember the “10” rule. You can do most things for 10 minutes even if you fear that you will be able to finish the entire project. Tell yourself you can make it through 10 minutes, and then tell yourself that again until the job is done.
If fear overwhelms your life and prevents you from challenging yourself, don’t be afraid to seek professional help.